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What are Bulging Veins?

Nicole Madison
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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Bulging veins, also called varicose veins, are abnormally enlarged veins that may appear right at the surface of a person’s skin or fairly close to it. Many people have heard of varicose veins in a person’s legs, but they can show up on other parts of the body as well. In fact, varicose veins may be found on a person’s abdomen, chest, and arms. They may even develop on a person’s face and hands.

When veins are visible from the surface of the skin and appear to be bulging, they are referred to as varicose veins. They appear to be bulging because blood has pooled within them instead of circulating through the veins as it should. These bulging veins are often quite long and wide, and can measure at diameters of more than four millimeters (.16 inches). They are not only visible, but also palpable, which means a person can feel them with his hand.

Anyone can develop bulging veins, but some people are more prone to them than others. The most frequent victims of varicose veins are women who are of childbearing age and elderly people. Men and women of all ages develop them, however.

There are some factors that make a person more likely to develop bulges. For example, lack of physical activity and exercise may contribute to their development, as can weight gain. People who stand on their feet for long periods of time may be more likely to develop them as well. For example, cashiers who stand on their feet eight hours a day may be more at risk of developing varicose veins. Additionally, pregnant women and people with family histories of varicose vein development may be more at risk.

There are several factors that may contribute to varicose veins. Sometimes they develop because valves in the veins are either weak or not there at all, leading to poor circulation. Sometimes valve function is inadequate and blood is allowed to flow in the wrong direction. Often, the walls of the veins are weak and allow the blood to pool. In some cases, other medical conditions may cause them, including vein abnormalities, blood clots, and vein inflammation.

Though many people dislike the appearance of bulging veins, they are often merely a cosmetic problem and not a medical one. In some cases, however, they can be severe and require medical treatment. Among the potential treatments are compression stockings, leg elevation when sitting or sleeping, surgery, and laser therapy.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By stoneMason — On Feb 25, 2013

@Sequoia-- You should get Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT). My sister had this done for her bulging veins in her legs and she's extremely happy with the results.

It's not painful either. As far as I know, in this treatment, they put something in the vein which makes it shrink and stay that way. My sister's bulging veins became invisible within two weeks of the surgery.

I think there are many more people who suffer from bulging veins than we realize. It's affecting people's self-esteem and social life. I don't know why anyone would put up with this when a simple procedure can treat it.

By ddljohn — On Feb 24, 2013

Every time I drink, the bulging veins in my legs become more prominent. Does this happen to everyone? What's the correlation between alcohol and bulging veins?!

By ZipLine — On Feb 23, 2013

@Sequoia-- Try not to worry about it too much. My uncle has a bulging vein in his forehead. It's more apparent at certain times than others. But he's also healthy and doesn't even pay attention to it.

Unless there is an underlying medical condition, a bulging vein doesn't have to be fixed.

By lapsed — On May 29, 2011

@Sequoia – I have the exact same problem. My doctor did blood tests for Temporal Arteritis but they came up clean. He recommended I see an ENT who suggested I get an MRI and MRA for more conclusive results which I’m yet to get because my insurance doesn’t cover it, but one thing my ENT suggested that made sense was that it may be a lack of fatty tissue due to recent weight loss. I’ve spent a lot of time dedicating myself to losing weight over the last couple of years and I feel a lot better about myself but this seems like one of those things I just can’t fix.

I found out that those arteries are actually only superficial, meaning they’re an unnecessary source of blood to the scalp. I think there are some cosmetic surgeries that can be done to remove sections of them to stop the blood flow, but this puts you at risk if anything happens to the other arteries supply blood flow to your scalp then there could be problems. I can’t imagine this being a common procedure.

Probably the best advice I can give you is a quote from the late David Foster Wallace: “You'll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”

By Sequoia — On May 29, 2011

I’m an 18 year old male and over the last couple of months I’ve noticed that I have two bulging arteries on both of my temples, although the right one is more noticeable. They’re really starting to bother me and affect my self esteem. They’re especially noticeable when it’s hot or I’ve been exercising, although they’re even noticeable when I’m not doing anything!

I eat healthily, lift weights four to five times a week and I don’t drink or smoke. I don’t recall suffering from any headaches (or any more than average people get). Does anyone know what might be causing this and how I can fix it?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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